Last week I attended the ‘How can we reach equal representation of women in Parliament by 2028?’ event hosted by Centenary Action Group (CAG).
CAG is a coalition bringing together organisations from across the women’s sector to enable collaboration, joint action and campaigning to eradicate the barriers that prevent women, in all their diversity, from taking part in politics and to improve women’s political participation in the UK.
This event enabled a cross-party discussion about the way forward and the sharing of ideas and experiences to ensure the next election does not see a slippage of female candidates. I spoke about Labour Women Network’s Selections For This Millennium campaign, the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Scheme and the Labour Women Network’s Political School. Labour has upskilled and encouraged almost 400 women in the last 12 months.
It was lovely meeting women from across different sectors who are looking to stand for election in the coming years.
It was lovely to meet participants of the Pathway To Success Leadership Programme at the House of Commons earlier this month.
The Pathway to Success Leadership Programme is a 5-day residential programme at the University of Oxford organised by Operation Black Vote (OBV) in partnership with the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government and Magdalen College, and the House of Commons to nurture the country’s future Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic leaders.
I really enjoyed hearing about the stories and aspirations of the participants and how they are involved in civic society and business. Visit OBV’s website for more details of their work.
https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/pathway-picture.jpg437655The Office of Abena Oppong-Asare MPhttps://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SM-Logo-3.pngThe Office of Abena Oppong-Asare MP2022-09-27 09:50:122023-02-26 16:55:41Pathway to Success 2022 at the House of Commons
I sat down with Hend Kheiralla, host of the Ladies of the Lakes radio show, to discuss my journey into politics, getting started as a new MP after my election in 2019, my experience representing Erith and Thamesmead so far, and advice for those interested in politics. I also spoke about the importance of allyship, networks and mentorship.
I think female representation is important in Parliament as well as diversity… because I think it is important to have people from all walks of life.
Ladies of the Lakes is a series of interviews exploring stories of women who grew up and lived in Thamesmead.
This month I organised my first ‘Meet your MP’ Coffee Morning at the Moorings Sociable Club in Thamesmead.
I’m always looking for new ways to engage with constituents and so I’ve decided to start a series of these coffee mornings events to meet and talk about all the issues that impact our community.
From issues such as local transport links and housing, to wider issues like the cost-of-living crisis, the war in Ukraine and recovering from the pandemic, I want to hear more about how together we can improve our local area.
It was great to spend the time to engage further about the many pressing matters and also the great opportunities available in Erith and Thamesmead.
I was very impressed with how passionate everyone was, and I hope all constituents can feel like they can reach out to me as I hold further events in the future.
If you are interested in coming along to a future meeting, I’ve just launched my webpage where you, your family and friends can sign up to register your interest in attending a meeting.
https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Picture1-1.png387516The Office of Abena Oppong-Asare MPhttps://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SM-Logo-3.pngThe Office of Abena Oppong-Asare MP2022-07-23 16:11:042023-03-01 21:05:23Abena's ‘Meet your MP’ Coffee Morning in Thamesmead
On Saturday morning I had the pleasure of speaking directly with some of my wonderful constituents in West Heath about the issues that matter to them.
The week prior I had hundreds of posters delivered to several streets in West Heath and invited those who wanted to speak to me to put one up in their window. Then, my team and I went and visited the houses that had a poster up. The reception was great, and I was able to have some really insightful conversations on the doorstep.
This was the first of my ‘listening canvass’ sessions. As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, I intend to hold these sessions throughout the summer and beyond. Eventually, I hope to give every household in Erith and Thamesmead the opportunity to speak with me face-to-face in this manner.
Huge thanks to residents in West Heath who took part in my listening canvass this morning. Now that restrictions are lifting I’ll be holding these all around the constituency. It’s great to be able to meet people again (obvs in a safe, socially distanced way). pic.twitter.com/nnXEhnGhJo
The pandemic has of course made it harder to have these kinds of face-to-face interactions with constituents. However, they are vital for making sure that I continue to hear from a broad range of local people. The conversations I had on Saturday will inform my work as your representative in Parliament.
I imagine it will take many months to get all around the constituency, but I am really looking forward to meeting more constituents and hearing from you. In the meantime, if you live in Erith and Thamesmead and you have an issue you’d like to raise with me, please don’t hesitate to email my office at: email@example.com
https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Listening-Canvass-West-Heath-e1624540784912.jpg768768Ray Williamshttps://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SM-Logo-3.pngRay Williams2021-06-24 14:30:252023-03-01 21:15:39Meeting Constituents in West Heath
The Queen’s Speech is a traditional part of the State Opening of Parliament. It is written by Ministers, but it is delivered by the Queen from the throne of the House of Lords. The Queen’s Speech on Tuesday (11 May 2021) set out the Government’s agenda for the new session of Parliament.
Even before the pandemic, we needed to transform Britain – we had 5.7 million people in low-paid or insecure work and 4.2 million children growing up in poverty, class sizes were at their highest for 20 years, one in seven adults were unable to get the social care that they need, and we had one of the worst levels of regional inequality in Europe. Shockingly, life expectancy had also stalled, for the first time in a century. Coronavirus has only further exposed the consequences of Government decisions over the last ten years.
We therefore needed a Queen’s Speech that rose to the scale of the challenge of rebuilding our economy and society. Unfortunately, I believe the one we got only papers over the cracks.
Instead of a plan for jobs and better work, for example, we see different parts of the country pitted against each other for limited funds, too little investment in infrastructure and no sign of the Employment Bill repeatedly promised by the Government.
The Queen’s Speech should also have included a clear long-term recovery plan for our NHS. But with waiting lists at a record high of 4.7 million, what we heard on Tuesday will come nowhere near the scale of the change needed. In addition, long after the Prime Minister said on the steps of Downing Street that he had a clear plan to fix the crisis in social care, there was still no such plan in the Government’s agenda for this session of Parliament.
I believe it is a similar story on skills and education, crime and policing and housing: I do not believe the rhetoric on these issues is being matched by funding, legislation or action. The Government has also failed to take this opportunity to help the thousands of people trapped in unsafe buildings, and hundreds of thousands of leaseholders are caught up in homes they cannot sell or afford.
On democracy, meanwhile, instead of rebuilding trust, the Government is introducing a Bill that will make it harder for people to vote, undermine civil liberties and disproportionately impact ethnic minorities.
Now is the time for a transformative agenda to rebuild Britain’s foundations after a decade of neglect and a year of national sacrifice. Unfortunately, I believe this Queen’s Speech has missed the opportunity to do this.
Summary of announcements in the Queens Speech
Levelling up White Paper due later this year setting out next steps of Levelling Up – and expected to include new policy interventions.
There is also a commitment to continue with previously announced measures (Levelling Up fund, Shared Prosperity Fund, Towns Fund, Freeports).
Health and Social Care
Measures to reform the operation of the social care system in England will be brought forward, however there was no confirmation about the introduction of a specific bill or legislation regarding how the sector is funded. Reports suggest that discussions are currently ongoing within Government about the potential cost of changes, which could run into the billions.
Proposals for social care were instead announced alongside the broader changes under the Health and Care Bill aimed at shifting care away from hospitals and towards peoples’ homes and increasing integration through the delivery of an Integrated Care System in every part of the country. Other measures within the Health and Care Bill include:
Provisions to improve oversight over how social care is commissioned and delivered and will provide some direction on integrating health and social care by “putting Integrated Care Systems on a statutory footing across the UK”.
Tackling obesity with the introduction of measures including:
The restriction of the promotions on high fat, salt and sugar food and 25 drinks in retailers from April 2022. The Health and Care Bill will also include measures to ban junk food adverts pre-9pm watershed on TV and for a total ban online.
Introduction of secondary legislation to require large out-of-home sector businesses with 250 or more employees to calorie label the food they sell.
Further support to GPs, so that anyone with obesity can get support from their GP and referrals to weight management services.
Measures will also be brought forward to tackle the impact of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing with reforms to the Mental Health Act to give greater control over their treatment and ensuring dignity and respect.
The Government will continue with its COVID-19 vaccination programme, planning for a booster campaign in the autumn and will provide a further £29 billion to the NHS next year in COVID-19 funding.
Local government, Democracy and Elections
The repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act and introduction of the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill will allow the Prime Minister to call an early election as opposed to current arrangements where elections are on a five-year fixed term basis (unless two-thirds of MPs vote for a motion proposing an early general election).
The Electoral Integrity Bill will introduce the requirement for voters to prove their identity when they vote at general elections.
Campaigners and rights groups have warned that this would amount to voter suppression and would particularly impact on the electorate in deprived communities where the costs of driving licenses and passports may be more prohibitive.
The Judicial Review Bill will set out the Government’s plans to change how its decisions can be challenged in the courts. This Bill will be subject to consultation.
The Procurement Bill aims to ensure public procurement is quicker, simpler and more transparent, while enshrining in law the principle of value for money.
Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill – changes across all main public service pension schemes in response to the Court of appeal judgement in the McCloud and Sargeant cases (which challenged protection of final salary pensions of those closest to retirement). Therefore implements changes already planned for.
Education and Skills
A Skills and Post-16 Education Bill (due for publication on 18 May) will introduce a number of reform to the adult further education system:
Lifetime skills guarantee that will allow anyone without equivalent A-level qualifications to be retrained.
Every adult to have access to a flexible loan for education and training (levels 4-6) at university or college, useable at any point in their lives. Adults will be able to access the equivalent of four years of student loans. They can be used flexibly for full-time or part-time education, technical qualifications or individual course modules.
Employers will have a statutory role in planning publicly-funded training programmes with education providers, through a “Skills Accelerator” programme.
The Secretary of State for Education will be given enhanced powers to ‘intervene’ in colleges that do not meet local need and guidance improvement.
Lifetime skills guarantee originally announced by the PM in Sep 2020 under ‘COVID-recovery’ plans.
Loan system has been a longstanding barrier since first introduced to uptake of adult further education (specifically disadvantaged groups) – not clear if this new ‘flexible’ loan will actually boost confidence for learners to take out the loan – will depend on the loan conditions.
Whilst no new measures were announced today regarding school education and Early Years, the Government have re-affirmed their commitment to roll out Family Hubs which will be driven by an investment of £14 million. Additional measures also include the recently-announced Early Years Healthy Development Review, which encourages all local authorities to publish a Start for Life offer which sets out support that parents can expect to receive in the 1,001 ‘critical days’.
Housing and infrastructure
Planning Bill (expected in autumn 2021) will introduce changes to the planning system previously set out and consulted on in the planning white paper.
Exact details of what will be included from the white paper not fully known until full publication or more details emerge.
Proposals in the white paper were expected to mean significant changes to Local Plans
Councils will be required to use a zoning system to assign ‘growth’, ‘protection’ or ‘renewal’ zones in local plans. Automatic outline approval issued for development in ‘growth areas’.
A new “Single Infrastructure Levy” would replace the existing developer contributions system of Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy.
Housing numbers would be determined nationally, with locally determined five year supply requirement scrapped.
Reforms are designed to help government achieve their own national housebuilding targets.
Building Safety Bill – a new system for regulating the safety of high-rise buildings, and inspecting construction sites – Building Safety Regulator to be established alongside updates to existing building safety regulations.
Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill – will restrict the charging of ground rents on new long residential leases – some exemptions such as for community-led housing.
Not contained in a Bill, but Government will later this year publish a White Paper, and legislation on reforms to improve standards and conditions in the private rented sector.
National Insurance Contributions Bill – will allow tax breaks for employers based in the eight freeports to be set up later this year (including in the LCR).
High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill – introduces the new powers to build and operate the stage of the HS2 high-speed rail line that will link with the LCR.
Crime and Community Safety
New powers for the police over protests, and new sentences for serious crimes were announced as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The Bill also places a duty on local authorities and its partners to work together to prevent and reduce serious violence, and the introduction of Serious Violence Reduction Orders.
A draft Victims Bill will create new rights for the victims of crime, including new standards on support offered to sexual and domestic victims.
Addressing violence against women and girls and supporting victims through the publication of a new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.
This follows the passing of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 which will see the introduction of a new duty on Local Authorities to assess the need for accommodation-based domestic abuse support in their area for all victims (and their children) and prohibited charges for the provision of domestic abuse legal aid letters by health professionals in general practice.
A Domestic Abuse Strategy will also be published focusing on prevention, accompanied by £25million of investment to work with perpetrators.
Measures will also be brought forward to establish a fairer immigration system that “strengthens the United Kingdom’s borders and deters criminals who facilitate dangerous and illegal journeys” although there was no reference to the implementation of an actual bill at this stage.
The Online Safety Bill will contain new requirements and place a duty of care on companies and social networks to improve the safety of their users online and tackle harmful and illegal content and clearly define what content is not acceptable.
The Judicial Review Bill will set out the Government’s plans to change how its decisions can be challenged in the courts. This Bill will be subject to consultation.
Continued Government commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
The Environment Bill has been carried over from the previous Parliament following many delays – indicates a continued commitment from Government to eventually enact.
Will set legally binding targets – which may be cascaded down to LAs.
A new, independent body will hold all public authorities to account on environmental law. A long-term environmental improvement plan will be produced and the independent Office for Environmental Protection will be set up.
https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/parliament-free-use.jpg13511800abena oppongasarehttps://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SM-Logo-3.pngabena oppongasare2021-05-11 15:31:572023-03-01 21:17:53My response to the Queens' Speech
On 8 March we marked International Women’s Day 2021. I used the parliamentary debate on IWD, held on 11 March, to celebrate local women making a difference in our community.
They included Dr Sam Parrett OBE, principal of London and South East Education Group, who has done so much to ensure that young people were supported throughout the pandemic; Sue Stockham, an ovarian cancer survivor, who is using her experience to raise awareness about the signs of ovarian cancer and the importance of getting help quickly during the pandemic; Carmel Britto who is the founding director of LPF Kiddies Club, which offers educational enrichment to young children from African and Caribbean backgrounds; Kate Heaps who is the chief executive of Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice; and Yeukai Taruvinga who is the founder and director of Active Horizons, a charity that works to support Black and ethnic minority young people in Bexley.
I also paid tribute to the countless women who have served on the frontline in our constituency during the pandemic as doctors, nurses, carers, cleaners, and other key workers. I could not name them all, but we must not forget the sacrifices they have made and the burden that has fallen on them.
https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/IWDHansard.jpg730729Ray Williamshttps://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SM-Logo-3.pngRay Williams2021-03-11 18:00:452023-03-04 12:27:41Celebrating local women in Parliament for International Women’s Day
There will be a Westminster Hall debate at 4:30pm on Monday 8 March centring around protests in India against new farming laws after a petition gathered over 100,000 signatures.
I applied to speak at the debate. There were many MPs who wished to take part in this debate and so, unfortunately, I was not selected to speak.
I have been horrified by the images of water cannon, tear gas and brute force being used against peaceful protestors. For the sake of democracy, the farmers protesting in India must be allowed to exercise their right to peacefully protest.
For those who don’t know, concerns have been raised about the impact of three new laws in India on farmers. Taken together, the laws loosen rules around sale, pricing, and storage of farm produce – these rules have protected India’s farmers from the free market for decades.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the laws will “benefit small farmers the most”, however their introduction has been met with ardent protests – especially in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana state. Farmers have been camped on Delhi’s outskirts since 26 November 2020 to protest the laws. Tens of thousands of police and paramilitary troops have been deployed to halt the march of protestors.
India’s Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of the laws “until further notice” and appointed a committee to broker a deal between the farmers and the government. Farmers have not accepted the committee, saying that all its panel members are pro-government.
Over British 100 MPs and peers have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister on this issue, calling on him to “convey to the Indian Prime Minister the heart-felt anxieties of our constituents, our hopes for a speedy resolution to the current deadlock and also for the democratic human rights of citizens to peacefully protest”.
On 12 January 2021 I personally wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to “publicly state [his] commitment to upholding human rights around the world”.
The Indian authorities must commit to upholding the right to peaceful protest and I believe this is a point that the UK Government should be engaging far more actively and effectively with the Indian Government on.
https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/indian-farmer-protest-700x350-2.jpg350350abena oppongasarehttps://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SM-Logo-3.pngabena oppongasare2021-03-08 16:15:362023-03-04 12:36:48Parliament to Debate e-Petition on Press Freedoms and Safety of Protestors in India
On Wednesday 2nd December I was awarded the Newcomer MP of the Year Award by the Patchwork Foundation.
MP of the Year Awards seek to celebrate and recognise those MPs that uphold the ethos and values of the Patchwork Foundation; to champion underrepresented, minority or disadvantaged communities in the UK.
The awards are adjudicated on by an independent panel who choose a winner from the public nominees, taking into consideration the work and accolades of the selected MPs. They are traditionally presented at Speakers House in the Palace of Westminster however this year I took part in the virtual presentation.
Patchwork Foundation awarded me the Newcomer MP of the Year award for “successfully campaigning this year on discriminatory attitudes in the media and society.”
This year has been an extraordinary time to enter Parliament but I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to represent Erith and Thamesmead during these unprecedented times. The hardship people have faced during COVID-19 has been evident and the work to represent my constituents who are being left behind will continue far into the future.
However, I have not represented my constituents alone – I have done so alongside my fantastic team, community organisations, faith groups, teachers, NHS and care workers and many passionate and caring individuals. There are many obstacles we must tackle as a community and as a country and I am confident that over the next few years I will be able to work alongside my fantastic colleagues and constituents to create positive changes.
Imran Sanaullah, CEO, Patchwork Foundation said “I am grateful to all of our winners for taking the time to be a part of tonight’s ceremony. Now more than ever these awards are an important reminder that our democracy relies on diversity of thought and ensuring Parliament and civil society evolves to be more inclusive. We’re proud of the work we do at the Patchwork Foundation to educate young people in how their democracy works and we look forward to help continue to provide the tools and skills.”
https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/newcomer-mp-of-the-year-e1615220538818.jpg652652abena oppongasarehttps://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SM-Logo-3.pngabena oppongasare2020-12-16 14:13:142023-03-04 12:50:30Newcomer MP of the Year Award
I have been contacted by dozens of constituents about the Coronavirus Act that was debated in Parliament yesterday. I fully understand and echo your concerns about many areas of this Bill, such as the suspension of the Care Act and Children and Families Act and, the extra powers afforded to police.
During the previous six months I have worked closely with local organisations and constituents to fully understand the impacts of COVID-19 on different communities and protected characteristics. In my report ‘Leaving Nobody Behind in Erith and Thamesmead’, published in August, I detailed the appalling impacts of the suspension of the Care Act for disabled people.
My report also details the impacts of fines and extended police powers under the Coronavirus Act which have disproportionately affected Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people.
The public have been overwhelmingly supportive of restrictions brought in to tackle the virus but a lack of clarity and constantly changing rules has seen cases rise again across the UK. Moving forward we need effective communication from the Government about how the public can continue to act in the best interests of everyone’s safety, not an extension of a Bill which removes people’s rights.
I am pleased that Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has announced that he will consult Parliament and hold votes where possible regarding future measures relating to COVID-19. I am also pleased that Matt Hancock MP confirmed that easements in the Mental Health Act have not been used and will not be used in the future.
However, the Government have failed to provide a level of confidence needed to be entrusted which such extensive powers. MPs were denied the opportunity to vote on amendments which would have removed dangerous Schedules from this Act such as Schedule 21. We were also constrained to a 90 minute debate meaning I was unable to represent the views of the many constituents who have contacted me in Parliament.
Whilst I wholly agree that legislation is needed to introduce restrictions in response to rising coronavirus cases, this legislation mandates for far greater powers than is necessary. Not only has this legislation created a situation where people’s rights are removed without debate, it has also removed their access to justice where these powers are misused.
I met with Inclusion London earlier this week who raised serious issues over the consequences of the inclusion of Schedule 12 and Schedule 15 of the Coronavirus Act.
Over the previous six months, eight local authorities in England officially declared easements under the Coronavirus Act. No assessment has been made of the effects of these easements on disabled people and, the Local Authorities failed to provide any evidence that the high threshold for turning on the easement in their area had been reached.
Inclusion London have collected further evidence which shows that Local Authorities have suspended care services without officially declaring easements.
One man who has PTSD and agoraphobia had an operation in February but was offered no care “because of the virus”. His cleaner stopped coming and he was forced to sleep on the settee and to urinate in a bottle.
The Government was warned time and time again that the introduction of this Act would see the rights of disabled people removed. Yet still no measures put in place to assess the impacts of the suspension of the Care Act on disabled people and ensure that those impacted had access to legal routes of complaint.
A lack of clarity around legal requirements and access to justice is a running theme in complaints about this Bill. Earlier this week I met with the Law Society who recently carried out a report into the impact of emergency COVID-19 measures on access to justice for vulnerable people.
People have been threatened with or issued fines for failing to follow regulations which are unclear and which Members of this Conservative Government have failed to follow themselves.
These fines have been disproportionately targeted at Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people, the same group that have failed to be protected from the virus by this Government.
I agree that some measures in this Act are necessary to ensure public safety going forward but many are dangerous and wholly unnecessary. It is for this reason I could not support the Coronavirus Act in full and abstained on the vote.
I have followed up my concerns with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and asked that he guarantees that easements of the Care Act and Children’s and Families Act will not be turned on again in the future.
https://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/COVID-19.jpg10801920abena oppongasarehttps://www.abenaoppongasare.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SM-Logo-3.pngabena oppongasare2020-10-01 10:04:512023-03-04 12:56:06Why I couldn't support the Coronavirus Act
Here for Erith and Thamesmead
Through my work I am determined to work with local residents, community groups, businesses and public services to ensure that Erith and Thamesmead is put on the map and we get a fair deal for our community.